Mundane battles of family life march across Crouch End artist's paintings
- Credit: Russell Cobb
After tackling miscarriage and infertility, artist Foz Foster celebrates the joyful friction of family life in his latest paintings.
Created in his Crouch End studio, the multi-layered highly personal works teem with soldiers from different battles marching around the portraits of loved ones.
The northerner, who came to London in 1988 to study art, exhibits Home Front; Kaleidoscope of the Mundane at Camden Image Gallery next month.
"It came out of my last exhibition Labour of Love about men and miscarriage," he says.
"When my wife had three miscarriages it wasn't a competition for attention but I was surprised when everyone said: 'How's your wife?'
"Two people have a baby and two people go through the loss. I did an 80-foot drawing and it escalated beyond belief. I became almost a spokesperson for men and miscarriage and was invited to fertility festivals - the first time an artist had been invited into that world. Scientists and fertility experts came up to me and said: 'You reminded me of what it's about.'"
The dad of two believes his art offered "an emotional space, a doorway into a world that's often swept under the carpet".
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"That's where the new work has come from, I seem to find myself exploring things which aren't often talked about."
Home Front draws on the Action Men, war comics and toy soldiers of his childhood.
"I was a classic 1970s kid, fascinated by war and fighting," he explains. "I'm interested in family life, there's always stuff going on, a daily friction in a positive sense. I started drawing these toy soldiers; cowboys, knights, the German army and put them in a playful fight on the kitchen table in Labour of Love. When I saw that in the exhibition I thought there was more to explore in this frictional space.
"As a 53-year-old man with kids and parents getting older, I'm in that classic space where stuff is happening on all fronts. We are carrying around this emotional world but none of it goes together, it all overlaps with silly things, health issues, a beer with friends. That seemed to fit with solders from different battles, how these experiences collide and you think about ways of defending your emotional space."
The colourful 14 6x3ft paintings feature shopping lists, jokes, school dinner money, a gas bill, pulling a Christmas cracker, as well as doctor's notes, conversations at funerals, his father having a stroke and portraits drawn from family snapshots.
"There's a real hybrid of emotion in everyday life. I am interested in the mundane, the things we take for granted, the spaces people overlook. The invisible world of boredom and happiness, sadness, stress, humour, tragedy, frustration all colliding and intersecting."
After drawing the first painting on a pile of Moon Paper, he realised it left successively abstract imprints.
"It was like that relationship of time, the baggage we carry like memories from childhood, and the things which disappear but are still partly there. Portraits from family holidays started appearing on other pictures and dissolving. These precious but transient moments we hold onto, then they are gone.
"The drawings get busier and busier, more out of context and abstract, still figurative but denser and more joyous. It becomes this kaleidoscope of emotion."
Foster finds he can make more sense of life on paper than in reality: "It's how I order my thoughts."
"These were going to be shown two years ago. I thought they were complete, but lockdown added more time, more layers and more visual joy. These images are about joy and living. I like imagery that's buoyant. I prefer to celebrate being human through laughter and the joy of colour. I want people to come out happy. I hope it will make people smile."